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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Namibia

Namibia - Consular Information Sheet
May 11, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Namibia is a southern African country with a moderately developed economy. Facilities for tourism are good and generally increasing in quality. The capital is Windhoek.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are normally required. Bearers of U.S. passports who plan to visit Namibia for tourism for less than ninety (90) days can obtain visas at the port of entry and do not need visas prior to entering the country. Travelers coming for work, whether paid or voluntary, must obtain their visas prior to entering Namibia. Travelers should obtain the latest information from the Embassy of Namibia at 1605 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009, telephone (202) 986-0540, or from the Permanent Mission of Namibia to the U.N. at 135 W. 36th St., New York, NY 10016, telephone (212) 685-2003, fax (212) 685-1561. Overseas inquiries should be made to the nearest Namibian embassy or consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The U.S. Embassy in Windhoek strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Kavango and Caprivi regions of northeast Namibia due to the uncertain security situation. U.S. Government-affiliated personnel have been relocated, and U.S. citizens in the area have been urged to depart. Fighting between the armed forces of Angola and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) has spilled over into Namibia. UNITA has staged violent cross-border raids and planted land mines. Many local Namibian citizens have been injured or killed by land mines planted in the Kavango region bordering Angola. Foreign tourists have been attacked and killed by men in military uniform on the Trans-Caprivi Highway between Rundu and Katima Mulilo.

The U.S. Embassy alerts American citizens to the potential for the Angolan civil war to affect regions along the Namibia-Angola border. On April 19, 2001, an anti-tank mine exploded approximately 35 km. east of Oshikango and approximately 2 km. south of the Namibia-Angola border in the Ohangwena region of northern Namibia. The blast injured two Namibians traveling in the truck which detonated the mine. U.S. citizens should exercise caution and maintain security awareness when traveling near the Namibia-Angola border.

The U.S. Embassy also alerts American citizens to the continuing tensions in the Caprivi region that could affect their personal safety. While the government of Namibia has lifted the state of emergency declared following the outbreak of secessionist-related violence on August 2, 1999, the potential remains for further conflict between Namibian government forces and members of the secessionist group.

U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. U.S. citizens considering travel to northern Namibia are urged to contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek for up-to-date security information.

CRIME: Incidents of violent crime directed against Americans and other visitors to Namibia are rare, but petty crime is on the rise, particularly in urban areas. The most common criminal offenses committed in the capital are non-violent crimes of opportunity including pickpocketing, purse-snatching, vehicle theft, and vehicle break-ins. Common sense measures, such as not leaving valuables in plain sight in parked cars, safeguarding purses, keeping wallets in front pockets and being alert to one's surroundings are the best deterrents against becoming a victim of criminal activity. In addition to the uncertain security situation along the Angolan border, banditry remains a problem in that region of Namibia.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are relatively modern, especially in the capital city of Windhoek.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of 50,000 dollars (US). Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have found it life-saving when a medical emergency occurs. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Namibia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair

In Namibia, driving is done on the left-hand side of the road. Many of Namibia's rural roads are gravel. Although these roads are generally well-maintained and graded, controlling a vehicle on gravel is significantly more difficult than on pavement. Drivers should not drive in excess of 80 km. per hour (45 mph) on gravel roads, should reduce speed significantly for curves or turns, and should heed all warning signs. Speeding on gravel roads can easily lead to a roll-over or spin-out, even though the roads may appear safe for driving at high speeds.

Turning on a red traffic light is not permitted in Namibia. Seat belts are required for all vehicle occupants. Motorcyclists are required by law to wear protective helmets. While child car seats are not required, they are recommended. To prevent carjacking and theft, it is advisable to keep car doors locked and windows up.

A valid U.S. driver's license is required for short-term visitors. Visitors intending to stay in Namibia for more than a few weeks should approach the American Automobile Association or the American Automobile Touring Alliance before their departure from the United States, in order to be issued an international driving permit. International driving permits cannot be issued to Americans once they arrive in Namibia.

Roads in Namibia are generally well maintained; however, few have shoulders or breakdown lanes. Wildlife wandering on roads poses a special driving hazard in Namibia, especially at night. An encounter at high speeds with antelope or cattle can be fatal. Many accidents on gravel roads occur when tourists exceed safe speeds on corners or in areas recently damaged by rains. Hitting a sand patch or driving around a curve too fast can easily result in a roll-over or spin-out. The salt surfaced roads at the coast can also be deceptively dangerous, especially when they have been made slick by morning or evening mist.

Most major roads are undivided with one lane in each direction. Drivers should remain alert for passing vehicles and exercise caution when passing slow moving vehicles. Drivers should always maintain a safe following distance. Accidents involving drunk drivers are an increasing problem on major roads where there are high speed limits. Driving under the influence is illegal in Namibia. A charge of culpable homicide can be made against a driver involved in an accident resulting in death.

Roadside assistance and emergency medical services outside of Windhoek may be unreliable or non-existent. Cell phone coverage is limited outside major towns. Assistance on main roads, however, is generally good due to the wide use of cell phones and the willingness of passing motorists to help. Public transportation is not widely available outside the capital. Public transportation within the capital is limited to taxis and municipal buses, though schedules and routes are limited. Vehicle rentals or radio taxis are generally the best means of transport, but may be relatively expensive.

Flashing of high beams and similar signals could mean anything from a friendly greeting to a warning. When encountering a motorcade, motorists are encouraged to make way immediately and follow promptly any instructions given by the officials present.

Emergency services contact numbers vary from town to town. The Namibian telephone directory has a list of emergency contact numbers at the beginning of each town listing. It is recommended that Americans maintain a list of contact numbers for the area in which they plan to drive. Telephone numbers may change, and 24-hour availability of these numbers is not guaranteed.

Because of the possibility of intoxicated and/or reckless drivers, the poor mechanical condition of some motor vehicles, and the high incidence of single-vehicle roll-over accidents, Americans are urged to avoid hitchhiking in Namibia.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Namibian driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Namibia National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the Internet at http://www.namibia-tourism.com. Also, for more information on driving in Namibia, please see the U.S. Embassy Windhoek web site at http://www.usembassy.namib.com.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the U.S. and Namibia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Namibia's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Namibia's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Namibia are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Americans should avoid purchasing diamonds and other protected resources outside of licensed retail establishments. The sentence for illegal dealing in diamonds in Namibia is stiff -- up to $20,000 (U.S.) in fines or five years in prison -- and the courts generally impose the maximum sentence. The purchase and exportation of other protected resources, such as elephant ivory, may also be prohibited by Namibian, international, and/or U.S. law.

DANGERS POSED BY WILD ANIMALS: Travelers are advised that even in the most serene settings, the animals are wild and can pose a threat to life and safety. Travelers are cautioned to observe all local or park regulations and heed all instructions given by tour guides. In addition, tourists are advised that potentially dangerous areas sometimes lack fences and warning signs. Appropriate caution should be used in all unfamiliar surroundings.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Namibia are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek and obtain updated information on travel and security within Namibia. The U.S. Embassy is located at 14 Lossen Street, Ausspannplatz, Windhoek, telephone (264-61) 22-1061, fax (264-61) 22-9792. The mailing address is Private Bag 12029, Windhoek, Namibia.

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